Friday, October 12, 2012

What is Nathaniel Comfort reading?

The current featured contributor at Writers Read: Nathaniel Comfort, author of The Science of Human Perfection: How Genes Became the Heart of American Medicine.

His entry begins:
Books are like people. I don’t just read them; I have relationships with them. And—don’t judge me—I’m a polyamorous reader. I think that, if one is open about it, one can be involved with many at once.

I read a lot of science-writing and history-of-science blogs—a lot of terrific material comes out online nowadays, even for historians. But these I read fast and mostly forget. It’s people-watching, with a little flirtation now and then.

For a harmless fling, I picked up Stanley Fish’s How to Write a Sentence (I love a good writing manual), but I think I’m going to end the relationship. Frankly, I’m bored. Its own sentences have no spark for me. So it sits, plaintively splayed on my bedside table. I’m thinking of shelving it and calling on some old friends: my dogeared but ever elegant Strunk and White, and perhaps...[read on]
About the book, from the publisher:
Almost daily we hear news stories, advertisements, and scientific reports promising that genetic medicine will make us live longer, enable doctors to identify and treat diseases before they harm us, and individualize our medical care. But surprisingly, a century ago eugenicists were making the same promises. This book traces the history of the promises of medical genetics and of the medical dimension of eugenics. While mindful of the benefits of genetic medicine, the book also considers social and ethical issues that cast troublesome shadows over these fields.

Keeping his focus on America, Nathaniel Comfort introduces the community of scientists, physicians, and public health workers who have contributed to the development of medical genetics from the nineteenth century to today. He argues that medical genetics is closely related to eugenics, and indeed that the two cannot be fully understood separately. He also carefully examines how the desire to relieve suffering and to improve ourselves genetically, though noble, may be subverted. History makes clear that as patients and consumers we must take ownership of genetic medicine, using it intelligently, knowledgeably, and skeptically.
Read more about The Science of Human Perfection, and visit Nathaniel Comfort's blog.

Writers Read: Nathaniel Comfort.

--Marshal Zeringue